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Disney Cruise Review and Vacation Money Lessons

Disney Cruise Review and Vacation Money Lessons

As many of you know, we just returned from our Mediterranean Disney Cruise, which we had planned and saved for the past two years. We spent 5 days in Barcelona and 12 days on the Disney Magic, visiting the French Rivera, Rome, Greece and Turkey. The trip lived up to our ship’s name and was truly magical.

vacationIn total we visited eight countries and had a wonderful time exploring each stop. One of the highlights for the girls was climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Being able to see and touch things they had only seen on TV/Movies or in magazines was an amazing experience for them and fun for Mom and Dad to witness too.

The Disney cruise itself was fabulous in every way. We are big Disney fans so we had high expectations and they delivered a memorable experience. After long days on land excursions, we would head back to the Magic for great shows, food, a lovely spa and kids clubs. It was such a perfect balance of history and pure Disney fun. I am sure the girls will never forget their first trip to Europe!

Unexpected Vacation Money Lessons

When we were planning this vacation, money lessons were not at the forefront of my mind—having a great time and making life-long memories with my family was my top priority. But money lessons were taught and best of all, I wasn’t even the teacher. They were.

Money Lesson #1: What Makes Your Heart Happy?

cruiseDuring our first night in Barcelona, we went for an evening walk to enjoy Goudi’s amazing architecture when we spotted a street vendor flipping a twirling light high up in the air. It, of course, caught our attention, and we spent a few minutes watching this dazzling display. My husband, Chris, and I could see the girls discussing these amazing little lights, which the vendor was selling for 5 Euros.

Chris asked Lauren if they would like one. She simply responded, “I really like it, but know it will not make my heart happy for long and would be a waste of money.” And with that, both girls turned and continued walking down the street (as Mommy did her happy dance behind them!).

Money Lesson #2: Abundance Mindset for Yourself and Others

cruiseDuring the trip, we made some wonderful new friends. One family generously invited us to their cabin to enjoy popcorn and a movie. Their cabin was gorgeous, easily three times the size of ours with a wrap-around porch. Taylor wanted to know why our cabin wasn’t as big. Before I could even say a word, Lauren jumped in and answered for me. She said, “I am so happy that they have such a beautiful cabin and were willing to share it with us. We made a decision when we booked the cruise based on what we wanted to spend on this trip, and I love our cabin!”

Once again, I just smiled. Lauren is only nine years old, but she gets it, and I love how she’s helping her little sister develop an abundance mindset too. Lauren is genuinely happy for the family with the amazing cabin, rather than envious and that makes her Mom very proud of her. There will always be people who have things that we desire. The secret in life is to make sure we are making careful decisions with our money to ensure we use it in a way that makes us happy. And when others do the same, we need to celebrate their decisions and good fortune!

Money Lesson #3: Talk to Your Kids about Money

cruise4This trip served as an overall great reminder about the importance of talking to kids about money. As I have shared before kids observe their parents and often mimic the language they use. Stop and think about what your kids observe you say and do. And most importantly, are you talking to your kids about how you choose to spend your family money and why? This cruise meant so much to all of us that we were willing to save for nearly two years. When friends went on vacations that made us want to grab our passports and head to LAX, we slowed down and reminded the girls (and maybe ourselves too) that saving for our big trip would be worth the wait.

When we were booking our cruise, we selected our cabin because it suited our needs. Rather than spend extra money for a larger cabin, we chose to use that money to instead go on private land excursions because that meant more to us. And we didn’t keep it a secret from the girls. We told them and when appropriate, we let them help us make decisions on how we spent our money.

My girls are 7 and 9 years old. I started talking to them about money when they were toddlers and probably couldn’t even fully comprehend what I was teaching them. And yet, those lessons stuck. In part because I consistently talk to them about money and how we use it as a family. And every time they choose to not spend money because the item won’t make them happy long enough to justify the cost or they feel joy for someone else’s good fortune rather than a need to keep up with the Joneses, it makes my heart swell with pride.

Our Next Family Save Goal

mick_mouseWe loved our Disney Cruise adventure so much that we’re eyeing another adventure with Disney. This time to China in 2015. It’s another big goal but one we’re happy to work towards together as a family.

What goals are you and your family working towards?


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  1. Friday, August 2nd, 2013
    Shannon, my heart just swells when I hear those stories about your girls and how they truly get it! Isn't it a wonderful feeling to know that your kids are going to grow up appreciating all that they've been given, instead of constantly searching for the next immediate gratification item? Great job, both of you! :-)
    • Friday, August 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, Laurie! I am very proud of them too. :) It seems like such a simple thing - talking to kids about money - yet so few do it and it can truly make a difference.
  2. Friday, August 2nd, 2013
    My kids are too young now to enjoy a cruise (3 y/o and 1 y/o). But when the time comes I'm all over Disney. We flew from North Carolina to Alaska in June and I'm still recuperating. These are great money lessons and it's inspiring to see how strongly your girls grasp the concept of money. Bravo.
    • Friday, August 2nd, 2013
      I completely understand. I remember traveling with the girls when they were that age and it takes a lot out of Mom and Dad! I highly recommend the Disney Cruise. We had a great time and it worth waiting nearly two years to go!
  3. Friday, August 2nd, 2013
    That is awesome that your daughters were able to turn down the light. It just shows that your teaching is paying off. On a side note how amazing was Goudi's building. I could have stood there and stared at it in awe for hours.
    • Friday, August 2nd, 2013
      Goudi's building was truly amazing. I was in awe of his talent. It does feel so good when I see my girls making smart decisions on their own without any prodding from Mom.
  4. Friday, August 2nd, 2013
    This is awesome! I'm glad you had so much fun. I seriously want to take my kids on a Disney Cruise one day...when they are a little older and can appreciate it!
    • Friday, August 2nd, 2013
      We had a fabulous time. I definitely think you would enjoy the cruise when the girls get a bit older. It was so nice to go exploring and then come back and be pampered!
  5. Friday, August 2nd, 2013
    What wonderful stories! It's awesome as a parent when you see the lessons begin to stick in the minds of your children. And you've just convinced me to look into Disney for our next cruise. Sounds like a blast!
    • Friday, August 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, Brian! Even though we've been talking to girls about money for a long time, it still makes me do my happy dance when I see them apply their learnings without any guidance from Mom or Dad. And yes, definitely look into a Disney Cruise. They are spendy but worth saving for!
  6. Friday, August 2nd, 2013
    Wow! Sounds like you had an awesome trip! And I'm impressed at your girls money smarts at that age. That deserves a nice pat on the back! It's nice to know all your efforts are working on them. Great job!
    • Friday, August 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, Anthony! I'm impressed with the girls' level of comprehension and application too. They are really starting to get it and I am so proud of them.
  7. Friday, August 2nd, 2013
    Your girls are amazing! I got it when I was younger but would have been unable to put it into words like they did. They are so grateful, that is fantastic, you did an awesome job with them.
    • Friday, August 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, Pauline! Gratitude is very important to me. I want the girls to have an abundant mindset, which will hopefully help prevent those keeping up with the Joneses urges.
  8. Friday, August 2nd, 2013
    That is really wonderful that your daughters are learning to appreciate how you spend your money and why. You are right that there will always be someone who has something bigger, better, or shinier than yours, and it is hard to make little ones understand that, but it sounds like they do get it at some point if we walk the walk as parents. That looks like a fabulous way to see Europe with kids. We might have to look into that type vacation.
    • Friday, August 2nd, 2013
      I really want to cultivate an abundance mindset in the girls. I think one reason why so many people get themselves into trouble is because they feel they must keep up with everyone. But if we learn to appreciate what we have and not compare ourselves to others, then we don't feel the need to keep up. I bet your daughter would love it. Taylor is a little over a year older and she handled the full days very well.
  9. Friday, August 2nd, 2013
    China would be amazing! I am excited for your family, and it's awesome how your daughter Lauren is starting to understand how money/life/choices/etc. all work together. Good for you for instilling those values!
    • Friday, August 2nd, 2013
      Thanks, DC! Yes, Lauren has really started to grasp more complex financial situations and I love how she's helping her sister understand them too. Big sisters have a lot of influence! We are definitely looking forward to exploring China as a family.
  10. Saturday, August 3rd, 2013
    Wow that looks amazing! A bit of advice about going to China (I've been there a few times). Definitely go off season, because there are literally milliosn of people everywhere. (Although China' land mass is the same as that of the States, half of it is desert. China is also insanely mountainous, so it's around 16 times more crowded than the States b/c no one can live in mountains).
    • Saturday, August 3rd, 2013
      Thanks for the tips! It will be our first time visiting, so we are very excited. The cruise was amazing and highly recommended. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it!
  11. Saturday, August 3rd, 2013
    All I can say is wow you have some amazing kids (and btw you have some serious guns in your pics-dang!) :) And I say that also because I just worked with two girls about your girls age teaching beach volleyball, and one is so rude and disrespectful towards me that I decided it wasn't worth the money to teach them. So thank you for raising such awesome-sounding young ladies. Oh and that trip (expect for the fact that I hate Disney-lol!) sounds AWESOME! I didn't know you could even get in the leaning tower anymore let alone climb it!
    • Saturday, August 3rd, 2013
      Thanks! I think my girls are pretty amazing too and unfortunately I'm seen some pretty rude kids too. I can't blame you for not wanting to teach them. I am workout fiend, so I'm glad it shows. And if I remember correctly - you're rocking strong arms and legs too Miss Beach Volleyball Queen. :)
  12. Corina Ramos
    Saturday, August 3rd, 2013
    Hi Shannon,

    It's so good to see your girls living the lessons you've taught them and they sound like awesome little ladies! Lauren is too cool for being a great example for her little sister! Because yes, big sisters are a major influence on little sisters. Has Lauren ever mentioned she'd like to follow in your footsteps?

    Thanks for sharing the pics of your vacation. It looks like you all had a great time! I know my kids are teens but I know they'd like a Disney vacation...we still watch Disney movies :).

    Have a great weekend hon!
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      I love how Lauren is being a great role model to her little sister. She really gets it and Mom couldn't be prouder. I could definitely see her following her Mom's footsteps. :) It will be fun to see what happens as she gets older. The vacation was great and Disney is really for the young and old. I hope you had a great weekend too!
  13. Sunday, August 4th, 2013
    Sounds like an absolutely wonderful trip! I love Barcelona and love cruising. What a great combination, as well as seeing all the other interesting ports in Europe.

    Choosing a cabin is interesting and I like your point about how your choose the cabin you wanted to have. Over the years I've done an inside cabin, outside cabin, and balcony. While each one was nice, I said to my husband after our last cruise with a balcony cabin that in the future we may be able to go a bit more often if we choose the less expensive cabin. As long as it is clean and comfortable, that is all that is really needed.
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      Barcelone was fabulous! And I'm glad we were able to spend a few extra days there and really get to see the city. It really does boil down to priorities. The huge cabin with the balcony was truly impressive but the private tours were important to us. And you're right, by scaling down things that may not be as important (clean and comfortable is all we need too) we can do more things.
  14. Sunday, August 4th, 2013
    Wow, those are some amazing pictures and your daughters (and parents) look so happy! That is so awesome that money lessons occurred in every day situations, because it really is about the little things (like the lights) that add up. I love how your daughter made the comment about making your heart happy - hopefully others will catch on to the same mindset instead of just buying something for frivolity's sake! Glad everyone had a wonderful time and China sounds awesome! :)
    • Monday, August 5th, 2013
      Thanks, Anna! We had a great trips and lots of smiles all-around! I think parent often mistakenly believe that money lessons need to be some sort of major production but they don't. The best lessons happen organically within every day situations and conversations. I love how Lauren has really embraced the idea of making sure the things she buys (or in this case Mom and Dad) make her heart happy.
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan